The West New York Department of Public Works have spent about $28,000 more on overtime this winter than they did last year, but according to the commissioner in charge, there is a perfectly good explanation as to why.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Between November 1st, 2017 and March 31st, 2018, the DPW spent approximately $113,303 on overtime, according to tallies made after HCV received numerous overtime records via an Open Public Records Act request.
For the majority of that time, Gabriel Rodriguez, now aiming to become mayor on May 14th, was the commissioner in charge of that department, with Susan Colacurcio taking over that role on March 15th, 2018.
This switch occurred after an add-on resolution was approved at the board of commissioners meeting the night before and means that she oversaw the department for less than one week of the winter 2018 records reviewed (the last pay period where overtime was reviewed in 2018 was March 21st, 2018).
For this year’s winter season, November 1st, 2018 through March 31st, 2019, the DPW went up to just over $141,225 – a differential of $27,922.
In a lengthy phone interview with Colacurcio, she explained that she is down a considerable number of employees – 58 compared to 71 a year ago – and that there is still an ample amount of work to be done.
“At the end of the day, when I’m operating on 23 percent less man power, the town hasn’t shrunk, there’s still snow: I have to utilize my guys the best that I can. Meanwhile, Commissioner Rodriguez was able to do whatever he needed,” she began.
“There’s no frivolous spending on my part, ever. When I had Revenue and Finance, people worked and they held the budget,” she added, noting that some sort of hiring freeze or budgetary concerns had prevented her from expanding her department this whole time.
Colacurcio is seeking re-election with Mayor Felix Roque, who is being challenged by Rodriguez’s New Beginnings West New York team – which also includes Commissioners Margarita Guzman and Cosmo Cirillo.
When pressed, Colacurcio said it was obvious that growing tensions between the board, going back 13 months, eventually came to a head.
“I know this was a political game to tie my hands behind my back,” she stated.
While a handful of employees reported banking hefty overtime in 2019, with one worker earning $3,222.45 for a two-week period in March, Colacurcio said that a select group of employees with CDL licenses and other certifications routinely sign up for extra hours since no one else has the qualifications to do so.
Back in December, Roque said that he had hired retired North Bergen Police Lt. Henry Marrero as a confidential aide at an annual salary of $30,000.
However, as only HCV detailed, other members of his administration pushed back against such an action and refused to sign off on bringing him on board.
Two days after that story was published, January 11th, Marrero was hired as a DPW laborer at a salary just a hair higher than initially expected: $31,940, according to a list of new employees obtained through a separate records request.
When asked about Marrero’s responsibilities, Colacurcio said that he works in the field and is always on call, explaining that he is really doing two jobs for the price of one since Anthony DeFino, Jr., her confidential aide, had to leave Town Hall after just a few weeks due to health issues.
“Henry is in the field and on call and he is my go to guy: during snowstorms he’s planning, he’s out with [Office of Emergency Management Coordinator] Louis Cannao, he’s in the street doing whatever he needs to do,” she explained.
” … Thank God I have Henry, he’s like having at least three workers.”
Expectedly, Roque said that he is happy with the direction the department is moving in under his running mate’s watch.
“I’m very proud of the work Commissioner Colacurcio has done with less personnel, she’s doing more with less and saving taxpayers money,” he added.
The West New York DPW is under the microscope this election cycle, with Angel Alfonso claiming earlier this week that he faced political retaliation for ripping down a Roque campaign sign, though the mayor’s camp quickly dispute that notion.
The town’s municipal elections are on May 14th and the final board of commissioners meeting before then is tonight at Town Hall, 428 60th St., at 6:30 p.m.